In addition to Will Smith and Carlton Banks on the 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hilary Banks was a standout. Hilary, played by actress Karyn Parsons, was the eldest and most spoiled Banks child known for her love of money, fashion, and all things fabulous. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the brains to back up her beauty, which made her even more endearing to viewers.
Aside from a role in the comedy film Major Payne alongside Damon Wayans, Parsons seemingly faded into obscurity after the success of Fresh Prince. She told VICE in a 2019 interview that it was not by choice. Instead, she says it was difficult finding work.
“Not that I expected people to know who I was, but even when I’d try to tell casting directors what I’d done before, they would have no idea,” she said. “I started feeling really stupid trying to get them to know what Fresh Prince was and who I was on it. It was embarrassing. I’d feel like a moron, like, ‘Oh, it was this show in the 90s.'”
Parsons said it was a lack of quality roles available for women of color during that time period. She jokes that a future Oscar-winning actress was getting all of the roles. “There were a handful of actresses that were doing the work, and most of their names were Halle Berry,” she said. “I was always like, ‘Halle got it again!’ It seemed like there were so few roles and Halle was working like crazy, deservedly so.”
She created her own opportunity by co-creating a feminist sitcom called Lush Life. Critics did not like the show and after just four episodes, the show was pulled from the air by FOX. She continued acting but as time went on, her interests began changing, especially after she got married and started a family.
She turned her attention to writing and founded the nonprofit organization Sweet Blackberry in 2005. The organization educates children about little-known parts of Black history. She recently participated in Fresh Prince’s long-awaited reunion special for its 30th anniversary, which aired on HBO Max.